Before his show at NYC's Hammerstein Ballroom we talked with Jameson Rodgers about songwriting, family, touring with Luke Combs and more.
Growing up in the small town of Batesville, Mississippi, there were a few constants for Jameson Rodgers: baseball, family and 90’s country.
Those factors helped to shape and influence the artist who would go on to tour with Luke Combs, write singles for some of today’s biggest country stars, and realize a bucket list moment when he inked a record deal with Sony.
Here’s a Quarter
“I was always the guy walkin’ around in school singin’ Travis Tritt, Garth Brooks or something,” Rodgers told me with a smile, sitting on a tufted leather couch at New York’s Ground Central coffee shop on Eighth Avenue. It became almost like hallway busking for him. “Everybody would be walkin’ the halls in school and they’d be like, man sing somethin’, here’s a quarter,” he said.
Rodgers would joke with friends in school that he was going to move to Nashville one day. Except to him it wasn’t a joke at all, it was his dream. But by pretending to not be serious about it he reasoned that he wouldn’t have to worry about not living up to anyone’s expectations.
The first time Rodgers performed in front of a crowd was during college. He and a buddy of his from the baseball team went to a little cafe and sang a few cover songs, including Jamey Johnson’s In Color:
“If it looks like we were scared to death, Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other, You should’ve seen it in color.”
“I remember bein’ so nervous,” Rodgers explained. “I was shaking. But afterward, when we were done, it was the greatest feeling ever. I was like, we have to do this more.”
His Biggest Fan
Rodgers got emotional when we talked about how supportive his family has been on this journey. He feels incredibly fortunate to have them behind him.
When Rodgers was a teenager he’d go sing karaoke with his family. A lot. “My dad always just pushed me to do that,” said Rodgers. “He thought I was a great singer. He’s been my biggest fan since day one.”
The early years in Nashville were rough on Rodgers. When he moved there in 2010 he didn’t know anyone and had no idea what to do. “I thought, I’m a good singer so I’ll just get a record deal and I don’t have to write or anything,” he said. “I learned the hard way.”
Rodgers worked a series of part time jobs to pay the bills: Fedex, Dick’s Sporting Goods, office work. Whatever he could do that would allow him to write and go to open mic nights. “I would go to every open mic night, like four or five days a week and get up there and play my three or four songs that I moved to town with,” he said.
There were times in those early years when Rodgers wondered if he’d made a mistake moving to Nashville. “I remember callin’ my dad one time and asking him if he would be mad at me if I moved home,” explained Rodgers. “He said absolutely not, but I think you’re doing great. If you want to move home you totally can. If you want to stick it out I’m happy to help any way I can.” That support and encouragement was just what Rodgers needed to stay on the path.
While Rodgers might not have started out planning to be a songwriter, it’s clear now that the hard work he’s put in over the years have only made him a better artist. And it’s those early experiences in Mississippi that continue to drive his creativity.
“When I’m writing there aren’t many times where I don’t think of my hometown for song lyrics,” said Rodgers. “It’s the typical small town, two streets, hangin’ out in parking lots, ridin’ back roads. All of those pictures that are still in my brain from growin’ up are what I pull from when I write songs.”
There’s always the challenge when an artist writes a song to decide if it’s one they’re going to keep for themselves. “I write so many songs, and the only way I know how to put it is, you just know it’s a song for you when you write it,” Rodgers explained. “We write so many songs and you’ll go, that would be cool for Blake Shelton or Kenny Chesney, but there’s the few that you write and you’re just like, man that’s somethin’ that I would love to put out, what I would like to say. They’re all from the heart. I like to put songs our that make people feel somethin’ – that’s my favorite kind of song to listen to.”
Success With Friends
Two of the songs that Rodgers has written for others are singles on country radio right now: Florida Georgia Line’s Talk You Out Of It and Chris Lane’s I Don’t Know About You, currently numbers 21 and 37, respectively, on Billboard’s Country Airplay Chart (as of April 22, 2019).
Reflecting on those songs, Rodgers said, “The cool thing about both of ‘em is I wrote ‘em with some of my best friends. Having success is cool, but having success with some of your best friends is way cooler. I’m just proud of both of those songs and really thankful.”
Rodgers’ favorite song that he’s written – and his favorite to perform live – is Missing One, from his 2018 self-titled EP. “It’s that feeling when you’re goin’ through a break up and you’re mad and you’re sad at the same time,” he explained. “Maybe you try to get over it with another girl and it’s not working. Everybody’s lived through that, I’ve had several of those stories.”
Rodgers wrote the song with Smith Ahnquist and Hunter Phelps. The three of them, all close friends, had a scheduled co-write every other Wednesday. On their first session together after Christmas break Smith was looking over some songs that the engineer had sent over and said, ‘I think I’m missing one.’
“Me and Hunter looked at each other and were like, that’s kind of a cool title,” said Rodgers. “And [Smith] was like, yeah it is. We sat around and we started writing the verses, and it took us six months of every other Wednesday. We started the Eagles record verse first, and we were like, man that’s pretty cool – we don’t need to mess this up now.”
I had every Eagles record / Center console, in a stack / When we split up, she still had Desperado / And I never asked for it back / So I’m missin’ one
“That one makes me feel somethin’,” Rodgers said “I don’t know how else to say it, but it makes me feel somethin’ every time I sing it.”
Be Good to People
Rodgers has had the opportunity to open for some amazing headliners. And with each of those experiences he’s embraced the chance to learn and grow as an artist. His first was opening for Old Dominion at Joe’s in Chicago. “I was so nervous,” said Rodgers. “I just remember watching them backstage and how they handled themselves onstage – just pros.” He also remembers how they took the time to stop and chat with him. “That’s one thing that I want to take on for myself whenever I’m a headliner,” he added. “It means a lot to the opening bands when you take the time to hang with them for five minutes.”
Rodgers was especially appreciative of all the support he’s gotten from Luke Combs. Talking about the recent Beer Never Broke My Heart Tour, Rodgers said, “[Luke] didn’t have to ask me to go on this tour. He asked me this time last year if I wanted to go, before I had a record deal, before I had FGL and Chris Lane songs on the radio, before any of that.” Combs told Rodgers that Brantley Gilbert did the same thing for him, asking Combs to go on tour before he had a record deal. “That’s just what life’s about,” said Rodgers. “Being good to people and helping people whenever you can.”
2019 is shaping up to be a big year for Rodgers. Following the tour with Combs he’s kicking off his own headlining tour in May. Rodgers will be stopping in NYC on May 30th with a performance at Mercury Lounge. Click here for tickets and more info.
In addition to touring, Rodgers is getting ready to release new music. “I cut six new songs in October, some really cool songs that I’m proud of, that’ll hopefully be out later this year after the first single drops,” he said. While a specific date hasn’t been set, his team is leaning towards sometime around June for the next single.
Check out our exclusive pics from Jameson’s performance at Hammerstein Ballroom:
Jameson Rodgers at Hammerstein Ballroom, February 28, 2019
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Were you at the Hammerstein Ballroom show or have you seen Jameson perform elsewhere? Will you be heading to his show at Mercury Lounge on May 30th? Tell us in the comments section below!